Moya, Dromm Seek To Change Immigration Terminology

The City Council is considering striking the words “alien,” “illegal alien,” and “illegal immigrant” from the city books and replacing it with the more contrite “noncitizen.”

Council Member Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona) introduced the legislation in mid-December and it was aired out last week before the council’s Immigration Committee.

City Councilmember Francisco Moya .

““Alien” is an outdated, politically loaded euphemism for “noncitizen”—a clear and unambiguous word,” Moya wrote on Twitter last Thursday after the committee meeting. “It’s time we remove “alien” [from] the City Charter and Administrative Code and bar referring to human beings as “illegals” in future laws or city materials.”

The change would affect residents who are green card holders or undocumented immigrants. Queens officials have a large stake in considering the bill: approximately 43 percent of Queens’ population would be considered “noncitizens,” according to data from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs’ 2018 Annual Report. 

That same report found that 184,000 undocumented immigrants live in Queens—more than the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island combined.

“Slurs such as ‘illegal alien’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ have no place in official discourse or in city records,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm

“As an elected official who represents one of the most diverse districts in the nation, I support this effort to remove such odious language—which in today’s world amounts to a new way to discriminate against immigrants— from all official city documents,” said Dromm.

This bill is not the first of its kind. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced the Correcting Hurtful and Alienating Names in Government Expression (CHANGE) Act last July. However, the federal act only seeks to replace “alien” and “illegal alien” with “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national.” The measure is currently in the House, and should it pass that chamber, will unlikely progress past the Republican-dominated Senate.

In contrast, the City Council may soon take up the legislation.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, Upper West Side) expressed his support for the city change in a statement on Tuesday.

“The City Council is continuing to work to ensure immigrant New Yorkers are treated as the valued City residents they are, especially at a time when they are under attack from the Trump Administration,” said Johnson. “This is why it is imperative we abolish the use of the exclusionary and dehumanizing term ‘alien.’”

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